Martian Manhunter: Rings of Saturn

Martian Manhunter: Rings of Saturn
Martian Manhunter Rings of Saturn review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 978-1-4012-5141-3
  • Volume No.: 2
  • Release date: 2014
  • UPC: 9781401251413
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

While continuing from the previous volume, Rings of Saturn opens with a chapter that originally ran far earlier in the series and is referenced during Son of Mars. As with the previous volume, its opening chapter gives little indication of the quality that follows, being mired in the complexities of a crossover series. It uses the longevity of Martians well, provides the final fate of Darkseid and has some great pages from artist Tom Mandrake, but everything else in the collection is an improvement.

Mandrake draws most of this selection very nicely, but before he picks up again there are two standalone chapters illustrated by Phil Winslade and Bryan Hitch, both near the start of their American careers, so very promising instead of spectacular. They’re also both far better stories from John Ostrander than the one provided for Mandrake’s return.

The meat of the selection is provided by the title story. It follows Ostrander’s revelation of the Martians of old being responsible for Saturn’s population, the complex relationship between two strands of them, and the possibility that Earth will be invaded if their differences can’t be resolved. Unfortunately, a crucial part of that resolution is Jemm, last seen abused and broken in Son of Mars. What follows is Ostrander and Mandrake’s Star Wars homage, although that’s not obvious without some thought, as they refer to the space opera mood rather than aping any particular plot. J’onn takes the Han Solo role of the obliging mate in what becomes a constantly shifting series of scenarios. Every time J’onn believes he’s in control, he’s disabused of that notion. It’s twisting, it’s clever, and it’s great fun.

However, the best story here is the closer. Ostrander’s established that the shapeshifting J’onn maintains many identities around the world, and he looks at a couple before picking up on the plot of Cameron Chase and the DEO. They’re aware of those identities and there’s something they want. Mandrake’s not at his best with superheroes, and his Superman is a little off point, but it’s a smart, emotional, human story.

Unfortunately, what sold well enough to sustain a series for three years at the end of the 1990s didn’t generate sales of graphic novels in 2014, and so Ostrander and Mandrake’s best work on Martian Manhunter remains unavailable in collections. The remainder are worth searching out.